It's summertime and the living is easy -- for you and the crooks eyeing your home.
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That's the thrust of a new study released this week by Nationwide Insurance, which suggests that more burglaries occur in June, July and August than any other time. Nationwide bases its findings on homeowners insurance claims and FBI theft statistics.
Nationwide also surveyed 1,005 people with homeowner or condo insurance policies and found that 79 percent say they try to prevent theft with dead bolts, alarm systems and other security devices. But the bad news, according to the insurer, is that 30 percent of all respondents routinely neglect taking any steps to protect their homes.
"We conducted this survey to identify common behaviors that could expose home and personal property to thieves," Pete Lore, Nationwide's associate vice president of property technical claims, said in a press statement. "What we found was that homeowners can, and should, do more to protect their belongings."
The survey, which was compiled by Harris Interactive and tapped policyholders from coast to coast, revealed several risky moves, including:
- 25 percent of homeowners admitted that they left the house unlocked at least once in the past year.
- 41 percent of younger residents (age 18 to 34) say they post photos and "We're having fun!" updates on Facebook, Twitter and other social media while on vacation. The bad guys often use social media to discover who's out of town.
- 85 percent of all homeowners did not know that the front door is one of the most popular entry points for burglars. The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association estimates that nearly one-third of all thieves get into homes that way.
- 39 percent say they leave doors unlocked about the same amount or more often than their parents did when they were growing up. Not smart, according to Nationwide, because there's been "a dramatic rise in thefts over the last 40 years."
- 35 percent tend to leave ground-floor windows unlocked; 34 percent leave second-story and above windows unlocked.
- 20 percent of policyholders with an alarm system don't activate it during the day, even though that's when crooks are busiest.
- 30 percent say they hide a spare key outside their home, even though burglars often know where to find them.
Home security insurance discounts
Here are recommended ways to protect your home from thieves, some of which will score a policy discount with your insurer:
- By installing an alarm system -- and taking other protective measures like including motion-detection lights on the outside of your property and installing dead bolts on doors -- you can qualify for up to a 10 percent discount, says Jarrett Dunbar, a Nationwide communications consultant.
- Make sure doors and windows are locked.
- Tell police or the neighborhood watch program about trip plans and ask them to drive by your house to see if it's secure.
- Keep quiet online about your vacation.
- Put newspaper and mail delivery on hold while away or have someone pick it up for you.
Other home insurance discounts
In addition to safeguarding your residence against break-ins, installing fire safety devices to protect your home from fire damage can also earn you a discount. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) -- which surveyed various insurers including State Farm, Allstate, Farmers, Travelers and Nationwide, among others -- says that many homeowners can get up to a 10 percent discount on their premiums for having sprinkler systems in their homes. The average discount, the NFPA notes, is about 7 percent.
Installing other fire safety devices such as smoke detectors, fire alarms and standard extinguishers can also come with an insurance discount. For example, Travelers and Liberty Mutual offer potential discounts of up to 15 percent for these safety features.
Here are seven more homeowner discounts you should ask your insurer about:
- Gated community: Some insurers will offer those who live with this extra layer of security a 5 to 20 percent discount on their homeowner policy.
- Senior: You may get a cost cut if you're 60 or older. Nationwide, for example, offers a discount of up to 15 percent for seniors.
- Non-smoker: Some insurers, for instance Allstate, offer discounts for non-smokers. Typically, they are 5 to 15 percent.
- Personal status: You can often get a discount if you're married or widowed. Nationwide offers up to a 5 percent discount for those who qualify.
- Inflation adjustment: Willing to increase your home's coverage to reflect a rise in inflation? If so, you may get a discount, according to Liberty Mutual.
- New home: Liberty Mutual offers a discount if your home purchase closes within 60 days of the policy's effective date.
- No claims: If you haven't filed a claim in 10 years, your insurer may offer you a discount of up to 20 percent.